Books Read in September 2020

Picture Books

Baloney and Friends
Greg Pizzoli
Read for Librarian Book Group

Three short tales for young readers about Baloney and friends. Plus three comics, plus instructions of how to draw Baloney and his friends.

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks
Suzanne Slade

A picture book about Gwendolyn Brooks’ early life and her career as a poet. The words and illustrations combine to convey how her neighborhood shaped her poetry. I read this on a tiny screen, and lost some detail, alas.

Up on Bob
Mary Sullivan

Bob, a dachshund has a job. It’s hard work, but he’s happy to do it.

I laughed and laughed, as will anyone with pets who like to arrange their surroundings just so.

Middle Grade

Brave Like That
Lindsay Stoddard
Read for Librarian Book Group

Let’s deal with the not-great first. There was a glaring date typo (In 1789 there were no banks to rob in Northfield Minnesota as the town was founded in 1855) plus everything in town was within walking distance. I’ve lived in a town smaller than Northfield and while things were close by, not everything was that close.

But one of the weirdest thing about this story was the reaction to the woman who joined the fire station. One of the firefighters could not wrap his head around the thought of a woman fire fighter so much so that I wondered if this book was set in the 1970s. It was not. While I understand that there is probably still pushback to women serving as firefighters, in 2020 the idea that there are women firefighters is not a foreign one.

Aside from those things, I really liked this novel. It’s great at depicting the churning emotions on tap when a child doesn’t love the thing a parent loves. There was a ton of nuanced and complicated emotion in this novel.

Fighting Words
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Read for Librarian Book Group

Amazing main character alert! Della is plainspoken and funny and will pull you right into her story of life in the foster care system Which so far is better than life before foster care.

I loved her foster mother who embodied that matter-of-fact caretaking vibe. There were also some really great post-trauma sequences.

Young Adult

Not Your #Lovestory
Sonia Hartel

Great setup. An aspiring YouTuber who deconstructs romantic comedies finds herself unwittingly cast onto a viral social media romance that didn’t happen. Solid stakes and great depiction of life lived on the edge of poverty.

Up to this Pointe
Jennifer Longo

What do ballet and Antarctica have in common? In this case, the two have Harper in common. She’s one of three teenagers picked to spend the winter in Antarctica after her ballet career—the one thing she’s been working towards for years—never gets off the ground.

Alternating timelines tell the tale of now and then.

This is My America
Kim Johnson
Read for Librarian Book Group

Amazing, and a great example of why we need diverse books. The whole time I was reading I wondering how many amazing stories we’d missed all that time because of #publishingsowhite. (It still is, but books like these are finally starting to be published regularly.)

This is a mystery, a chronicle of the family of an innocent man on death row, plus it deals with police brutality and knowing your rights. There’s also a love triangle and a crackerjack plot!

Mike Curato
Read for Librarian Book Group

Flamer is a graphic novel about summer camp that is full of adolescent boy things in a way that drives home how hard it is to be an adolescent boy. The color scheme captures that camp and campfire feel.

It also brought back memories of the racist chorus of Boom Chick a Boom we used to say (sing?) at Girl Scouts in elementary school. I’m glad that that one didn’t resurface. We totally did the Valley Girl one, though. I’m glad to see it’s still around.

The Beauty that Remains
Ashley Woodfolk

This was an ambitious first book. Three main characters, each mourning the death of a friend, sister or ex-boyfriend. All three characters have friends who are tangentially connected, and it was a lot of people to keep track of.

If you are up for the challenge, there’s great stuff about loss and also music.

All Our Worst Ideas
Vickey Skinner

This would have been a serviceable YA romance, except for the lack of attention to a legion of details. As they piled up, my annoyance increased.

A record shop in Kansas City that is open until 11pm on weeknights and does enough business to employ three people all the way until closing? A rear ending that causes the driver to break his arm, but only does a little damage to the bumper? A character who never attended homecoming, even though she had a boyfriend during at least one homecoming? Just how big is this stockroom and why is there so much to do back there that it can fill a full shift? Someone can get a zero on a test and still make valedictorian?

Not to mention that one of the characters is a total asshat whose activities never seem to be fully reckoned with.

This was a shoddy effort that left me feeling angry.

Today Tonight Tomorrow
Rachel Lynn Solomon
Read for Librarian Book Group???

This was the second book in a row where the main character MUST be the valedictorian.

I liked this treasure hunt/adventure story, and enjoyed that it was pro romance novel. It was predictable from the first page and I also found the acrimony of the two leads to be off putting for the first part of the book. That part was a bit of a slog.

But this is a very fun Seattle book and would pair nicely with I am Princess X by Cherie Priest.

(A fun thing! I couldn’t remember the Princess X book title, so I googled “ya book seattle comics mystery missing friend” and the book was the second search result! I love when the search engines work!)

Blood Moon
Lucy Cuthew

2020, the year when books about menstruation really started flowing through the publishing pipeline.

This novel in verse covers a friendship hitting a rocky point plus that thing that half the population experiences, but is not often talked about. There’s also internet harassment!

While the bones of the story were good, the book’s resolution mirrored exactly an episode of Glee and I wonder if the author subconsciously absorbed that plot point, or if it was one of the things that springs forth from the culture.

We Regret to Inform You
Ariel Kaplan

Mischa has worked hard for four years and her mother has sacrificed a lot to send her to a fancy private school. Now it’s time for all of that to pay off as the college acceptances roll in. But they don’t.

When she’s rejected from every school she applied to, including the safety school where the average student’s SAT score is half of hers, Mischa is bereft, which turns to anger, which turns to asking questions.

I love Kaplan’s books. Her characters are so immediate!

Grendel’s Guide to Love
Ariel Kaplan

Tommy lives in a quiet neighborhood full of retired old ladies who pay him to mow their lawns. It’s summer and all is fine until loud parties start up next door.

Among other things I liked about this book was the depiction of an abusive sibling relationship (I can think of only one other YA book that depicts this not-uncommon situation) and the organic way the parents were absent.

This is also somehow related to the Beowulf story, but I haven’t read enough of the classics to have caught that connection.

More Than Just a Pretty Face
Syed M. Masood
Read for Librarian Book Group

What a delightful character! Danyal is fully conscious of who he is (pretty, loves to cook, good guy) and who he isn’t (smart, diligent student). This was a funny book, that also had me thinking differently about arranged marriages.

It’s worth the price of admission just for Danyal’s conversation with the library employee.

How to Save a Life
Sara Zarr

Jill is trying to get through life after her father’s sudden death. Things get harder when her mother invites Mandy, a pregnant teenager, to live with them so she can adopt Mandy’s baby after it is born.

There are a lot of feelings in this book, expressed in that great Sara Zarr way. Also, I could not for the life of me figure out how the story was going to end. This made for a singular experience.

Of note. This was in the to-read pile for a few library borrowing cycles. This meant that for many weeks I caught a glimpse of it which queued up The Fray’s song “How to Save a Life.” I’m not opposed to that song, but it was nice when the book returned to the library, thus ending the auto play in my brain.

Grownup Fiction

Ooona Out of Order
Margarita Montimore

I love books that play with time, so this one was a winner. It was fun to jump between years of Oona’s life. It was so enjoyable that at one point I felt sad I wouldn’t be able to read all of Oona’s years.

I also appreciated the realistic depiction of a character’s body changing over time. Most of us do not stay the same weight year after year, decade after decade.

Young Nonfiction

Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots
Michael Rex
Read for Librarian Book Group

Solid intro into the concept of facts and opinions, with very engaging robots explaining the difference.

Title-wise I didn’t feel like the “vs.” attached to “Robots” in the title is accurate. The robots were used to show the difference between facts and opinions. They weren’t in opposition to either facts or opinions.

Grownup Nonfiction

Love Money Money Loves You
Sarah McCrum

Incredibly woo woo book about how to talk about and interact with money. It’s one of those books where my attitude is, why not? Can’t hurt.

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